It was nice for my generation to finally feel wanted after being maligned since at least the Great Recession.
Alas, two years later, everyone has changed their minds.
Home prices and rents have skyrocketed and homes available for sale have recently reached record highs. The bidding wars are fierce. And if a flurry of recent media coverage is to be believed, millennial “Zoom cities” are to blame for the resulting housing crisis, especially in low-cost areas.
Apparently the problem is do not chronic underinvestment in new construction over the past decade. Nor is it exclusionary zoning and another NIMBYist obstruction to more and denser housing. Never mind that baby boomers are increasingly clinging to their multi-bedroom homes rather than downsizing in retirement, in part because of state tax laws that reward incumbent homeowners for staying put.
Ignore ongoing supply chain issues and tariffs that have increased the cost and time to build new builds.
No, the problem is us young (rather?) Whippersnappers. We entered our prime childbearing years, then decided ruthlessly to put a roof over our children’s heads. If millennials were once accused of failing to pitch, now we’re accused of pitching too aggressively.
Such media coverage made me wonder: where, exactly, are millennials supposed to live these days?
Certainly not with our parents. For years we’ve been teased and chastised for crashing in mom’s basement, despite the fact that millennials graduated in a terrible job market that’s likely slowed our incomes for the next decade. We were told to stop wasting our money on avocado toast so we could finally leave the nest and buy our own homes.
The median price of an existing home is $375,300; the avocado toast is, at the most expensive end, maybe $15 a pop. Thus, we each have to buy about 25,000 less avocado toast than we could otherwise consume. So, boom! Dream house, here we come.
Once we skimp and save, that dream house doesn’t have to be in a big, expensive city near the best-paying jobs. If we live there, we could contribute to gentrification, attracting bars, restaurants, shops and other desirable amenities that drive up property values and drive out existing residents.
Nor are we supposed to decamp to smaller “idyllic towns”; there, too, we will displace former inhabitants and force them into tent cities, according to recent coverage.
So let’s see: we can’t buy existing homes near or far from the workplace, or pretty much anywhere in between, because then our offers would drive prices too high.
Would it be okay for someone to build us New housing instead? Also no. Neither in the cities, nor in the suburbs, nor even in the countryside.
You can’t build where there are aging retail businesses – like in Northwest Washington, D.C., where a developer wants to build 99 new residential units (most of which would be reserved for residents who earn less than 60% median income) and a non-profit arts space. A local group, Friends of 14th Street, is working to cancel it.
The group is “not to oppose affordable housing,” he asserts, echoing NIMBYists everywhere. “What we object to is the size, density and scope of the project.”
What if the proposed accommodation is located, say, where there is currently parking? No, sir, at least not in a big city like San Francisco, according to that city’s board of supervisors.
Alright, so the cities are out. What about suburbs in Montgomery County? Or Valley Stream, NY, at the site of a closed funeral home? Or somewhere more rural, like Churchill County, Nevada?
Your potential neighbors say no, lest it harm the “character” of their neighborhood.
Of course, today’s young workers are not the only ones struggling with the lack of available and affordable housing. Low-income people and people of color, regardless of age, have disproportionately lived in housing insecurity and cost burdens for generations. This, too, is the result of the choices society has made to chronically underbuild and overzone.
But millennials are not just victims of the more recent and widespread affordable housing crisis. We are also somehow blame for him, even if it is about older owners and holders who refuse either to move, or to allow the creation of new housing so that others can settle there.
So I ask again: where exactly are we allowed to live, according to the judgment and electoral behavior of our elders?